"You know... not everything we do needs to be extraordinary..." Jonathan said this to me as he was loading me into the back of the ambulance outside of our house while I held our newly born daughter in my arms.
We never intended on having a home birth. Our plan was always to head into the hospital as soon as my contractions were 5 minutes apart, lasting for 1 minute, for 1 hour (basically the 5-1-1 rule). There are people who do plan on birthing at home and they have a midwife on call and a general plan for emergency back ups in case something goes wrong. Some women seek out home births because they feel more comfortable in their familiar surroundings or because they want more control over the environment. There are the rare occasions we all hear about where a woman doesn't make it to the hospital in time and has to give birth in the back of the car on the highway or in the back of an ambulance. For most people, this is a "worst case scenario" and it freaks people out. Rightly so. Not being in control of your situation can be a scary thing and most people have zero experience delivering babies. Shockingly, WE ended up being one of those families who didn't make it to the hospital, or even out our front door, because we underestimated well...everything.
The Swedish prenatal care system here is top notch. To be an unborn baby or a pregnant mother, means that you get really holistic care and a very hands-off-let-nature-take-its-course type approach. Their maternal-child health outcomes here are extremely good and Sweden is the second safest place in the world to have a baby. I felt like I was in good hands. When I mentioned to my office midwife that I was studying Hypnobabies, or birthing hypnosis, as my main route of pain relief, she was intrigued and thrilled. She had never heard of this before! She thought it was fascinating and would ask me at my monthly appointments how my studies were going and if we could film my labor and delivery. I wanted this pregnancy to be different from Calvin's. With Calvin, I had an 11 hour labor with an epidural followed by pitocin. I pushed him out in 20 minutes and felt confident that I knew what labor felt like but wanted to try it naturally. Also, I understood that second babies tend to come faster... so I needed to be physically and mentally prepared for things to progress rapidly.
The Hypnobabies system is a self-hypnosis study-at-home course and comes with a large workbook and hypnosis CDs. I loaded them all onto my iPhone and listened to them during naps and before bed time. I found I was basically falling asleep to them, which was great to help me sleep and overcome pregnancy insomnia, but I wasn't sure how effective it was being or if I would reap the benefits of the program. To be frank, I felt a little hippy-ish even trying it, but I figured what did I have to lose? The worst that could happen was that it wouldn't work but that it positively affected my sleep. Just sleeping well for 9 months was worth the investment! Jon started listening to his birth partner tracks and was so relaxed that he fell asleep on the bus. This would be great! We'd both sleep through my labor! Hah...hah...right.
The main point of Hypnobabies is to reprogram your mind to stay positive and to erase any fears or doubts you may have around pregnancy, labor and delivery. The tracks help you stay calm, relaxed and loose so that your body can just do its own thing naturally and so you don't tense up or fight the contractions, which leads to real pain. Read about the fear-tension-pain cycle by Dr. Grant Dick-Read. Basically Hypnobabies seeks to eliminate this cycle by attacking the fear that leads to tension by using self-hypnosis. You are in control of your hypnosis at all times and completely aware of your surroundings if you want to be. It all sounded good in theory but how would it hold up in practice?
For the past 3+ weeks, I've been having nightly back aches and Braxton Hicks contractions that really just interfered with my sleep and anxiety. I kept expecting the back ache to radiate to the front and convert into contractions but they never did. I kept listening to my hypnosis CDs and tried to relax each night.
On Sunday morning, I was drinking my coffee and rolling cars with Calvin on the floor. My back started to ache, just like it always had, and I told Jon that I was going to take a relaxing shower. I kind of zoned out and relaxed in the shower and listened to one of the hypnosis tracks that was really just about affirming self-confidence in the entire birthing experience.
I was having periodic back pains (maybe 2 every 30 mins) and figured this was early labor and sent a text to our friend, Eva, who was on stand-by to watch Calvin. I didn't want her to rush over, these were just back aches after all, but we wanted to give her a heads up. That was at 9:15am.
I was able to walk around in between back aches and wandered downstairs to the yoga/exercise ball that was downstairs. The only thing that felt remotely OK, was for me to stay on my knees and drape myself over the yoga ball and slowly roll back and forth. I was listening to my hypnosis tracks aloud since Jon and Calvin were upstairs...playing (where he stayed for this entire experience). At one point, Jon said that Calvin was in his bedroom with the lights off, listening to lullabies in his bed. I think he knew what was going on and was also calm and quiet.
Jon would occasionally come downstairs, push on my back, and then leave in the middle of a pressure wave. Hey! Come back! When you are in hypnosis, you are supposed to stay focused and remain absolutely calm and relaxed, so that meant no talking. Jon was back upstairs to be with Calvin by the time my wave was over so I just walked to the other room. I kept alternating positions between rolling on the yoga ball and sitting on the toilet. Both positions felt good for my back and my hips and I was able to relax. Between the two, I figured I could ride out these back aches and then we would call the hospital once the real contractions began.
After one trip to the bathroom, it became clear that we needed to call the hospital. Things felt different now. I walked to the bottom of the stairs and asked Jon to call the BB Stockholm hotline - where we were planning on delivering. He came downstairs, saw me on the yoga ball, and called the hotline operator for labor and delivery. He handed me the phone where I confirmed my personnumer and in the midst of talking with the operator, I rushed to the bathroom with the incredible urge to ...well... use the toilet. Instead it wasn't the same type of pushy sensation as before...I reached down and felt her head!
For the briefest millisecond, I insanely considered "holding her in" with my hand. Well that was swiftly dismissed as my body took over and I told Jon with some urgency, "she is coming...now!" He put his phone on speaker and said to the operator, "Call 911 or 112! Whoever! We are having the baby now!!!" There was a brief exchange of "where are you? Where do you live?" etc that we didn't have the patience for and I'm pretty sure they hung up on us. We didn't have time for a Swedish pronunciation lesson here folks. In the midst of everything, I end up pushing the baby out in one, maybe two pushes in rapid succession, squatting in our hallway just outside the bathroom. Jon reached up and grabbed her from under her armpits and helped guide her out. The whole thing was maybe 30 seconds long. We had just delivered our own baby... in our house... without any type of medical assistance... and I didn't make a noise. Not even a grunt. Not even a heavy breath. I DIDN'T EVEN BREAK A SWEAT! None of it hurt. Where was the pain? Where were the contractions? YOU CAN'T HAVE A BABY WITHOUT CONTRACTIONS... can you?
What the HELL had just happened??? I'm pretty sure it was 11am...so just under 2 hours after I felt, "weird" and had sent the text to Eva saying to be on alert to come watch Calvin. How did I not know that I was in transition, crowning, or any of the other NUMBER OF PAINFUL THINGS THAT SUPPOSEDLY HAPPEN DURING LABOR? My pain level was maybe a 1 or a 2 out of 10 during the entire experience.
Jon was so calm and collected during the 30 seconds for delivery that he went into PANIC MODE once she was out. What do we do now?? How do we keep her alive? What was it that the doctors did to Calvin when he was born? They sucked all of the fluid from his nose and mouth. We need a snucker thingy. A nose sucker! Get one of those! I sent Jon upstairs and he demolished the wrong room searching for a nose snucker. He kept coming downstairs empty handed, in a panic going, "what do you mean a nose snucker??" We actually have 2 of them in the playroom where we keep the rest of the baby-grooming supplies, but he destroyed Calvin's toy box - of all things - instead. He did manage to come back with like 50 towels and threw them at me during one of his frantic trips. I'm pretty sure he also gave me a pack of bandaids and a pacifier. Whaaat are you doing?
At one point, Calvin came downstairs to check on his momma and he saw me holding his little sister in Jon's yellow and navy Rochester swim towel. "Hey bubs, meet your little sister." He said, "Lucy!" and came a bit closer to look. I was sitting on the floor in a pool of towels and told him to be careful. He then wandered outside and started racing his cars on the back deck - completely fine with the whole experience.
All the meanwhile, my midwife calls my phone, because they are all interconnected here in Sweden and she saw that we had called the Labor and Delivery hotline. She was talking me through trying to get Lucy to cry. Lucy, was silent, this entire time. Not one cry, not one peep. In the movies, the baby isn't OK until she cries. Why wasn't she crying? No cord was wrapped around her and she was a healthy pink color. In fact, she was breathing, but why wasn't she crying? Apparently, she wasn't crying because she was absolutely fine. She was happy - she basically birthed herself and now she was where she wanted to be. On the outside. Time was approximately 11:15am. We declared her birth time by looking back at our phone call history to see when we were on/off the phone. It's not like we were paying attention to the clock so we don't really know.
The paramedics came after what felt like an eternity but was really 15 mins and they slowly sauntered in. The one EMT looked at me and was like, "hej, looks like everything is under control." He kind of gave Lucy a once over and declared her healthy and slowly got out the tools to clamp and cut the cord. They were absolutely not in a rush. They let Jon cut the cord - which is child's play for him at this point - and the whole mood calmed down a bit. I hopped up on the stretcher with Lucy into the back of the ambulance. While there, Lucy nursed and the EMT took her vitals, as well as mine. Apparently my blood pressure was a little high - 130/93 - so he measured me again when we arrived at the hospital and I was down to 110/78. I mean, I just delivered my own baby and all ... one might expect a slightly elevated blood pressure.
Everyone was calm when we arrived at the hospital - no rush or anything - I had already had the baby. The whole scene was very surreal. Once at the hospital, they let Lucy stay on my chest for 2 hours, just nursing and bonding. I didn't deliver the placenta for a while because it wasn't ready. I hadn't had any contractions during labor, so it was still firmly attached. They gave me a shot of oxytocin to move things along and encouraged Lucy to nurse, which helped with the uterine contractions. Once that was done, I felt much better. I felt light as a feather and floated into the bathroom to take a much needed shower.
|Chubba wubba Lucy|
|Look at those chubby arms!|
We left in the morning at noon the next day after the pediatrician came around and checked out Lucy's vital measurements. She was perfectly healthy and we have follow up appointments for her PKU and hearing tests later in the week.
So that's the crazy story. We unintentionally out-Vikinged the Vikings. It all happened so fast and without any escalation, that none of us had time to prepare or process what was happening.
Lucy made her grand entrance in a very calm, quiet and comfortable fashion. She is such a calm baby and this, by far, was the most relaxing labor and delivery I've ever experienced.
As for me, I've earned honorary Viking-woman status. We are extremely fortunate that Lucy was healthy and that everything was so easy. Jon isn't scarred for life since his involvement was so quick and easy and I'm not traumatized from a long or complicated labor. Lucy knew how and when she wanted to be born and she made it so. Jon is an official midhusband/midwife and we have the birth card from the hospital to prove it.
How could I not even know I was in labor?
Everyone has heard of those stories or those tv shows, I didn't know I was Pregnant, and nobody ever believes that women just go to the bathroom and birth a baby. I certainly never believed those women. How could you not know? The signs are SO obvious and clear. So, how did I end up being one of these clueless women who had labor sneak up on her? I mean, I do have experience in this baby birthing thing after all and I have experienced majorly uncomfortable contractions before.
In reconstructing the events of the day, I began to piece together all of the signs that I was truly in active labor. My only issue was that I was in complete denial that I was even in active labor because I was waiting for those front belly-compressing contractions to start. Without those, according to me, I wasn't in active labor yet.
Sign 1: Shaking uncontrollably -- I remember experiencing some uncontrollable shakes in my hand and in my mouth during one back wave after my shower -- so approximately 45 mins into the experience. I guess shaking is common during transition but since nobody was checking me, I have no idea how far along I was when this happened.
Sign 2: Nausea or burping during labor - a few times throughout, I felt like I had to throw up when I was in the bathroom. I had no issues with this and wasn't holding back, it just never happened. This is also associated with transition. I probably felt this way, on and off for 20 minutes.
Sign 3: Feeling the urge to use the bathroom and bear down. This is generally when you are between 8-10 cm dilated. I got up and walked to talk with Jonathan after this. It occurred to me, after the fact, that I was walking calmly around my house 8-10 cm dilated. Who the hell am I?
Contributing factor 1: All of those nightly back aches and Braxton Hicks contractions I had experienced for those 3+ weeks prior to delivery meant that my body was in game-time shape. All of that activity had primed the pump, so to speak, so when things progressed, they progressed quickly.
Contributing factor 2: I was changing positions and walking around my house in complete comfort in between my back waves. I was comfortable enough to do whatever I wanted - whether that was on the yoga ball or sitting down - I was in tune with my body and did whatever I felt was necessary. I think this helped my labor progress much more rapidly than if I had a team of midwives following me around in a labor and delivery room. I might've felt more self conscious sitting on the toilet in front of someone. By myself, I felt completely at ease to do whatever felt 'right'. It would've been nice to have someone apply counter pressure on my back, but I ended up doing that myself and that eased my discomfort.
Contributing factor 3: The hypnosis tracks all said to keep breathing through the pressure waves and to relax all birthing muscles. The breathing really didn't do anything to alleviate my back aches. Those just kept coming and coming. I guess this is a common report from women who've had back labor - it is very difficult to alleviate the pain in the back. However, since all of the aches were in my back, I kept my birthing muscles relaxed. There was no tension there at all and I did my visualizations and followed the hypnosis suggestions to try to move things along.
Jon had kept asking me if it was time to call Eva to have her come over to the house and I kept saying, "No, I'm completely fine. Let's give it another hour." Besides, even if we did call labor and delivery sooner, what could I tell them? I've been experiencing completely manageable back aches for 40 minutes? I doubt that would've raised any red flags.
Looking back on everything, I see the signs now that I was in active labor, however without those front contractions, I was never going to believe that I was as far along as I was. I had never had back labor before and was expecting contractions, maybe a little more pain or discomfort and at least another 2-3 hours before meeting our little girl. She came as a complete surprise and we couldn't be happier with how things worked out.
|24 hours old|
|So calm and alert (48 hrs old)|
|All four of us!|